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NRDA releases draft plan for phase three of Gulf restoration

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Last week, after U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell authorized its dispersal, the trustees overseeing BP oil spill cleanup funds released their Draft Early Restoration Plan.

Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) trustees' draft of what is called the "Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS)" details what will be done during Phase III of early NRDA restoration projects, funded through one billion BP dollars.

These are considered "early" NRDA funds the oil giant agreed to invest in restorating damaged natural resources resulting from its 2010 Gulf of Mexico catastrophe. BP is still undergoing a civil trial in New Orleans to determine the full extent of damages in the Gulf and its culpability.

Mississippi River Delta restoration environmental groups including the National Audubon Society, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana released the following statement in response:

More than three years after the largest oil spill in our nation’s history, today’s announcement is a positive step toward healing the battered Gulf. The Natural Resource Damage Assessment process moving forward through release of the PEIS signifies progress toward restoration. We encourage the NRDA trustees, BP and stakeholders to continue working together to implement these early restoration projects and help revive the Gulf Coast’s struggling natural resources.

The trustees’ commitment to funding environmental projects in Louisiana, including nearly $320 million proposed for barrier island restoration, is an exciting advancement toward restoring the Mississippi River Delta. Barrier islands provide critical storm protection and are the first line of defense for New Orleans and other coastal communities. They also provide habitat for migrating birds and other wildlife, including the Louisiana brown pelican. These early restoration funds will help rebuild four barrier islands, including the Breton Island National Wildlife Refuge, which was ground zero during the oil spill.

We look forward to reviewing and providing public comments on the draft PEIS and to working with the NRDA Trustees during the public comment period and the implementation stage to complete these vital restoration efforts. The communities and economies of the Gulf Coast and Mississippi River Delta have waited long enough for restoration, and these early restoration projects are a key step toward fairness and recovery.

The news comes as deepwater drilling in the Gulf remains vibrant, with even more wells than before the spill. For example, as far up the Gulf as Texas at North Padre Island, this Examiner spied at least a dozen wells several miles from the shoreline.

For more information on the early restoration process, visit NOAA's site here.

To read the framework agreement for early restoration, from which projects for this phase of restoration were chosen, please click here.

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